Sam Warburton to captain British and Irish Lions in tour opener

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Warren Gatland swept away any lingering doubts about the fitness of Sam Warburton last night by naming the British & Irish Lions captain in his team for the opening game of the tour on Saturday.

Gatland said he was "excited and bit apprehensive" about the much-anticipated tour kicking off in the first visit since 2005 by the composite team of players from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

New Zealand-born rugby league convert Ben Te'o has also been named to start in the centres with England teammate Jonathan Joseph, providing Gatland with the combination of a hard ball runner and more creative player in midfield. These games, they are important to win them.

"If we won every game 3-0 I'd bite your arm off".

The Lions landed on Wednesday in Auckland after a two-day journey to the other side of the world.

"There'll be a lot of learning in the next three or four weeks". "While we have depth in the country, Super Rugby teams will take the best 10 or so No. 10s in the country and Bryn had a great Mitre 10 Cup previous year for North Harbour and was instrumental in getting them promoted to the Premiership".

New Zealand underlined their recent dominance with a world-record equalling 18-Test winning streak in 2015-2016, and coach Steve Hansen said this week there was still "plenty of room" for improvement.

Tour captain Sam Warburton accepted the challenge on behalf of his team during the "powhiri" (welcome), which included a performance of the All Blacks' traditional "Ka Mate" haka. "So, a great start to the tour".

In an interview shortly after the schedule was announced, Gatland said "Whoever agreed to that schedule from the Lions point of view, it's insane". The boys have had to learn a lot of calls and moves, but they all put their heads in their notes and learned the Welsh lyrics for us, which is quite hard. We've picked the team for Saturday but it is still the plan to try and give the whole squad a start in the next two matches.

"It really felt I was chasing it four years ago".

The 23-man squad met for the first time last Saturday, drawn from the length and breadth of the country.

An estimated 20,000 supporters are expected to travel to New Zealand for the 2017 British and Irish Lions Tour which takes place during June and July. "It is a privilege to be here", Spencer said. "We don't mind the schedule at all".

He then took a subtle dig at the policy of former All Blacks and Lions coach Graham Henry, critiquing his approach when Lions coach to Australia in 2001.

However, with injuries hitting the main Super Rugby squads, McMillan and his assistant coaches Roger Randle and Joe Maddock were unable to call on some of their targeted players.

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